Published On: April 3, 2020

Dear BTU Family,

We hope this email finds you well and ready to take a deserved break this weekend.We’ve had a busy week, and are sending end of the week updates for everyone.  

On Tuesday, we virtually attended the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education’s monthly meeting, where we called on the state to freeze the memorandum of the agreement while we are all grappling with an unprecedented global public health crisis. The MOU was signed between the city and DESE in response to the state’s district review report of BPS that opened the door to state intervention. We were joined by Evelyn Reyes, student representative on the Boston School Committee, parents from East Boston and Roxbury and a teacher who experienced the Dever state takeover.  We were also joined by City Councilors Annissa Essaibi George, Kim Janey and Lydia Edwards, who all shared their concerns with the department and made clear that both a freeze and stakeholder engagement process were needed.

You can read all about the meeting and how our allies are responding to the MOU in coverage from the Boston Globe, Boston Herald, WBUR, WGBH News, Dorchester Reporter, and State House News Service. You can also watch a recording of the meeting. The testimonies start at the 07:15 mark. Later in the meeting, the Commissioner responded to the testimonies. We believe his response included several inaccuracies which we plan to clarify to the board via an open letter. In the meantime, we hope that you will continue raising your voices by signing this petition to fight for our city and our schools!

The state House of Representatives has taken a step to keep MCAS alive this year. We need you to tell the Legislature to reverse it and cancel the test. Thursday evening, with no advance warning and no debate, the House passed a bill during an informal session that would permit Commissioner Riley to require districts to administer a modified version of MCAS, and that MCAS could still be used to deny seniors a diploma.Call your state senators and representatives NOW and tell them to cancel the MCAS tests for this year, and cancel the use of MCAS as part of the competency determination for the Class of 2020. Get your legislators’ phone numbers here and make sure to leave a message and ask the legislators to call you back.

We have the following additional BPS specific updates on COVID-19 to share as of today:

  • Negotiations continued this week.  We are impressing upon the district the urgency of getting the MOU done, and are frustrated, as our members are, with the slow response.  We have sent a counterprosoal, and have again offered to meet over the weekend and as frequently as possible to get this done.
  • We have heard of the developing concerns regarding privacy and platforms such as Zoom. Zoom is not FERPA compliant, but Google classroom is, as limited as some of the features may be.  If you do continue to use Zoom, you may want to see these tips for security.
  • In regards to privacy and use of personal phone numbers, we suggest using Google Voice, blocking your number, and/or scheduling times of the day when you respond to phone calls and text messages so as to help with the balance of work and personal time.
  • Lastly, while we are still developing an MOU with more specifics, we know that many schools continue to experience ongoing changes in expectations.  We suggest looking to the DESE guidance for guidelines and guardrails in the interim. The MTA has provided a valuable explanation of the guidance which explains much of the thinking behind it.

Please continue to submit your questions or concerns on our Google Form

For prior special bulletins and to stay up to date on the latest resources and volunteer opportunities, visit our Covid-19 webpage.

If you are able, please consider signing up to join the BTU Volunteer Corps. BTU volunteers have been stepping up daily to help fill the many needs created by this crisis and the need continue to grow.  

Note to volunteers: Please don’t forget to observe social distancing recommendations of staying six feet away from each other, hand washing frequently, wearing gloves when possible, avoid touching your face, and taking other precautions even if you feel very healthy.

Thank you, everyone, for continuing to step up and inspire.  We have been blown away by the creativity, ingenuity and commitment from so many of our educators throughout this crisis.  We also remind everyone to remember take care of yourself and don’t forget to slow down sometimes–for your sake and the sake of the students and families you are working with!  Please do see the resources below for self-care as well as mental health resources.

We will be in touch when we have more to share soon.

Self-Care Resources

  • BTU and Breathe For Change are co-sponsoring a weekly series of interactive Virtual Wellness Workshops for all BTU members! Educators will be equipped with skills and strategies to enhance well-being through accessible self-care practices. Register for these virtual workshops to create space for your self-care and a chance to connect to the community while at home.
  • The AFT is working nonstop to protect the health and safety of our members, including workers on the front lines. See here for resources and guidance for leaders and members in all divisions about the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Additionally, the AFT is offering a Trauma Coverage as a new benefit. Members, while fully focused on serving their communities, often neglect to seek help and healing for their own personal traumas. This innovative program uses the latest communication technologies—phone, text and video—to assist members whenever needed, wherever a member may be. Sessions with highly trained, licensed therapists are completely private and offered free to all active working members, including those on leave status.
  • Hands to Heart Center is offering free yoga videos on their YouTube channel! So far, there is a Chair Yoga video and an Adult Beginner Yoga video. There a few more videos in the pipeline, so check back regularly for updates!
  • The BPS Office of Health and Wellness has created a resource page on practicing social emotional learning (SEL) during COVID-19 and physical distancing. It is more important than ever to recognize our emotions, thoughts, and assets and how they influence a well grounded sense of self. Check out the resources here!

Tech Supports and Professional Development Resources

  • Thank you to the 110+ educators who joined the Telescope Network this week for panels, group discussions, and virtual trivia league! Please keep checking their website for new events and trivia results. You can also add your name to the invite list for upcoming sessions.
  • Join ESP Consulting Teacher Anne Slater for weekly mini lessons on the writer’s notebook. Anne will demonstrate how to start a writers notebook and, in the coming weeks, model lessons on generating ideas for writing and growing ideas into a variety of pieces including poetry, non-fiction, memoir and narrative writing. Teachers can use these lessons as a springboard for further writing or simply include as a weekly choice. Open to teachers and students.
  • First Book has lots of fun art materials to help kids express themselves.Explore their selection of school supplies (including bulk options for easy distribution) to make sure kids have essentials at home to keep learning if supplies were left behind at school. Don’t forget to sign up for First Book!
  • Tech Goes Home has a new COVID-19 resource page! Sections include internet and affordable computers, resources for remote instruction, and more.
  • The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) has pulled together a list of available resources that can support students and families while schools are closed. 

Additional Covid-19 Related Announcements and Action Items:

  • The Massachusetts Military Support Foundation will be distributing two weeks worth of meals to veterans at Gillette Stadium in Lot 5, weekdays from 10am-2pm, through April 10. The pick-up truck will be staffed with healthy volunteers wearing proper gear to keep everyone safe.
  • The City of Boston Employee Assistance Program has released an aggregation of COVID-19 resources, including general news, information, and safety resources.
  • Project Bread has made a simple, interactive map for finding meal sites serving students during the school shutdown. They also have a multi-lingual hotline and other information about food during COVID-19.
  • All Greater Boston Labor Council delegate meetings will be suspended until further notice. Please help spread GBLC’s Resource Guide for union members in English, Spanish, Portuguese and Mandarin Chinese, and read and share the MA AFL-CIO’s Working People’s Demands statement.
  • The combined impact of the unprecedented COVID-19 public health crisis and xenophobia has devastated Massachusetts’ Asian Pacific Islander American (APIA) and immigrant communities. The anchor organizations of the Asian Pacific Islanders Civic Action Network (APIsCAN)*** have launched the Asian Community Emergency Relief Fund for the most vulnerable members of the community, including individuals and families without access to public assistance who are unable to meet basic needs. We encourage you to donate and refer people in need to the fund. And check out this new installment of AFT Voices from Kent Wong, detailing the anti-Asian sentiment in this country as a result of the virus.
  • Trump has said he will not fully invoke the Defense Production Act until a “worst case scenario.” We know that there are not enough ventilators needed to care for the patients in surge areas and the situation will worsen as the number of cases continues to rise across the U.S. SIGN AND PROMOTE THE AFT/PPE PETITION, which calls on the administration to act now.
  • Let your networks know that community members can receive rental assistance by calling “311.
  • TISLA has partnered with Mapping Your Future (MYF) to create an interactive website, which requires no registration or fees, that contains several training modules that cover topics such as resuming college after the pandemic and understanding the waivers and options available to student loan borrowers. 

Please enjoy your weekend, check on those living alone, make time for virtual “happy hours” and look out for one another!  We continue to be #InThisTogether.

Jessica Tang

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